Museum blogging Web 2.0

Powerhouse Museum’s official blog policy – April 2007

Many museums have been asking about blog policies.

Our Executive has recently signed off on a museum-wide blog policy and so I’m happy to be able to share ours with you.

The policy document is presented as a series of points to make it a little more readable, and overall the intention has been to make the process of proposing and getting approval for a museum blog as quick and easy as possible.

Download as a PDF.

We are much indebted to the Walker Art Center whose publicly shared blogging guidelines formed the initial framework for our policy.

11 replies on “Powerhouse Museum’s official blog policy – April 2007”

Interesting policies. Although reading them sounds pretty scaring, I guess that they are necessary inside an organization. I am curious about the “Guidelines for Presenting Controversy” mentioned in the document. Could you share a bit about them?

After attending Smithsonian’s presentation at mw2007 I realized how difficult and cumbersome could be for staff members implementing a blog. However, the Brooklyn Museum ladies gave a wonderful example of “radical trust” to the overall community of museums.

Seb, I also liked very much your comment during your presentation on the State of the Museum Blogosphere about museums as institutions who really do not trust their audiences. Unlike libraries, museums can not leave their real contents to their users. In this sense, Susan Hazan’s comment was certainly relevant: a book can not be compared to La Gioconda.

Yes, very helpful. Thanks!
I am curious about the decision to moderate comments. I assume this means more than spam filtering – that they aren’t posted instantaneously? (I guess I will find out when I hit Submit!)
We’re about to launch our first blog and after thinking hard about the ‘radical trust’ issue, decided to not moderate at first and see what happens….

Thanks, this is indeed useful. I have 3 questions:

1. Who has ultimate responsibility for the blog comments – the Web unit or the blog ‘manager’? By that I mean who has the permissions to finally approve/upload comments? On my reading it is the latter, but it’s a bit unclear to me.

2. If that’s the case then it seems to be contradictory that there is also a disclaimer to be made about views not being “official”. If they are written by PHM staff wouldn’t they then be deemed “official”? You wouldn’t put that kind of a disclaimer on a printed publication for example?

3. The policy doesn’t seem to cover staff who may be commenting on another blog from their professional perspective. When I did my blog entries about future trends in museums (see I received several comments from potential contributors about what they felt they could (and could not) say with their institutional ‘hats’ on. In one case the person requested that I post my interpretation of thier comments instead of them. Is this issue addressed anywhere by the PHM?

Thanks again, and I do enjoy your blog!

Susan – we use SpamKarma to filter comments automatically in the first stage which removes 99.9% of spam or unsuitable comments using both algorithmic and blacklist methods. A second stage filter is human and happens as soon as a comment is posted – we get notifed and can delete if ustill unsuitable. Spam is a huge problem – over 100 spam comments each day per blog – so automation is essential.

Lynda – 1. see above. The blog owner has first responsibility athough the web manager can override where necessary. There are occasions where a less-web savvy blog owner may not realise that a ‘compliment’ may actually be a spam link farmer in disguise.

2. The disclaimer is a means to distinguish between edited or copy-written official speech and less formal, more individualised/personalised communication methods. It resembles the ‘footer’ that is automatically appended to outgoing emails that are sent from musuem staff.

3. No, this policy doesn’t cover staff responding to entries on other blogs – it wasn’t intended to. Those actions are covered by the more general organisational and government Code of Conduct which has always applied (at least since the early 90s) when responding to emails, listservs and online forums.

Yes, thanks! Very helpful. And thanks for being such a great forward-runner in the museum blogosphere!

Thanks for publishing this. Of course, everyone here immediately zeroed in on the Guidelines for Presenting Controversy.” Are these available online anywhere?

Hi Seb,
I went to the Museum Seminar at the Australian Museum on Wednesday (18.7.07) at which Mel Broe & Roger Hudson spoke – on blogs, tagging, folksonomies etc. Not surprisingly, fresh+new(er) came up. I notice that you have a disclaimer on the front page:
“This site is for discussion purposes only and does not represent the offical views of the Powerhouse Museum. Any views expressed on this website are those of the individual post author only. The Powerhouse Museum accepts no liability for the content of this site.”
(By the way, I notice there’s a typo: “official” has been spelt “offical”. :-) )

On myVirtualGallery, in View Mode, I’ve put a disclaimer above the ‘wall’:
“NOTE: Opinions expressed in this virtual exhibition are solely those of its creator”

I was wondering, how much legal validity to disclaimer actually have? When I was getting ready to launch myVirtualGallery, a number of curators here (at the AGNSW) were horrified at the thought that unqualified people could write things in an AGNSW-hosted virtual exhibition that could be viewed by the public, even though every exhibition must be approved (by me) before it goes live. I pointed out the disclaimer, but one curator said that disclaimers don’t do anything, other than to make it look like you’re covering yourself. Have you (or anyone else reading this) had any advice to the contrary?

Hi Jonathan

Official typo fixed. Well spotted.

The way I’d answer your question about legal validity is that ‘legal validity’ only comes in to play when a legal situation eventuates. Everything involving user-generated content involves some degree of risk and when addressing whether or not to do it, I think it relies on your approach to risk management.

Is the subject area controversial? Are the risks high?

Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Are the fears about what users might write matched by the reality of what they do actually write? (Jim Spadaccini and my survey of museum bloggers showed that the % of museum bloggers actually concerned about hate speech was far lower than those concerned with resourcing regular blog posting)

And, if it does come to a legal situation, then what measures have been put in place to minimise exposure. (eg. “this chocolate bar may contain traces of nuts”)

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